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Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Adria LaViolette (Eds.): The Swahili World: London, Routledge, 2018, 672 pp., ISBN-13: 978-1138913462

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For the past two centuries or so, education systems in Africa have changed from parental- to school-based training. With this pedagogical shift, children and young people are mentored using school curricula that say very little about the cultural heritage sites in the community in which they were born and raised. Heritage research outputs, such as books and articles in international journals, cannot be accessed by local people. If they do manage to access these publications, the content is too technical for them to understand the central arguments. Consequently, local people, especially teenagers and young adults, have little awareness of the scientific interpretation of heritage sites and their associated value. The question remains as to what methods could be used to make young people appreciate cultural heritage sites and hence collectively engage in heritage preservation projects. Using Tanzania’s ‘Bongo Flava’ (BF) music as a case study, this paper provides empirical evidence of how music could be used to make people aware of the value of heritage sites in Africa. We report that BF music at Kilwa Kisiwani World Heritage Site in Tanzania is continuing to motivate young people to develop an interest in preserving monuments and to participate in conservation initiatives.
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Resumen: En este artículo, evaluamos la hipótesis de que los pueblos Swahili de la costa oriental africana fueron una sociedad marítima a partir del primer milenio E.C. Basados en información histórica y arqueológica, proponemos que la asociación de la sociedad Swahili con el mar incrementó considerablemente con el tiempo y se manifestó de una forma significativa particularmente desde principios del segundo milenio E.C. Utilizando teorías recientes sobre maritimidad en otras áreas del mundo, así como investigaciones sobre los Swahili, discutimos tres temas que marcan las diferencias del nivel de orientación marítima de esta sociedad costera entre el primer y segundo milenio. Éstas son la variabilidad y discontinuidad en la localización y permanencia de los asentamientos; evidencia de una conexión mayor con el mar a través de la tecnología de pesca y navegación; y desarrollos arquitectónicos especializados que incluyen instalaciones portuarias, mezquitas, y casas. Las implicaciones de este estudio indican que debemos considerar otros aspectos de una sociedad aparte de su localización costera para determinar su maritimidad. Hay que considerar cómo el mar y sus productos son parte de la vida social y evaluar si existe una influencia recíproca entre el ambiente marítimo y los patrones de organización sociocultural, las prácticas, y las creencias de los Swahili y otras sociedades. [marítimo, pesca y navegación, comercio a larga distancia, Swahili, África Oriental].
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Glass beads comprise the most frequently found evidence of trade between southern Africa and the greater Indian Oceanbetween the 7th and 16th centuries AD. In this thesis beads recovered from sout ...
Article
In this article, we respond to an article by Jeffrey Fleisher et al. (2015) in which they pose the question: When did the Swahili become maritime? We draw from our research findings in coastal and inland Eastern Africa to show that inland African societies were an essential component in the development of Swahili urbanism and maritimity. To understand change in any part of the East African coast requires understanding the entire context of economic, political, and social interaction across the diverse dimensions of this society. By excluding inland Eastern Africa from their analysis, Fleisher et al. omit the interactions between land and sea that were the basis of this society's development. We conclude that Swahili society resulted from intercommunity interaction, socioeconomic networks, and exploitation of diverse regional resources. [trade, maritime, mosaics, urbanism, Swahili] En este artículo, respondemos al escrito de Jeffrey Fleischer et al. (2015) en el cual hacen la pregunta: ¿Cuándo los swahilis se convirtieron en una sociedad marítima? Nos basamos en los hallazgos de nuestra investigación en África oriental costera e interior para mostrar que las sociedades africanas del interior fueron un componente esencial en el desarrollo del urbanismo y la maritimidad swahili. Entender los cambios en cualquier parte de la costa africana oriental requiere entender el contexto entero de las interacciones económicas, políticas y sociales a través de las diversas dimensiones de esta sociedad. Al excluir África oriental interior de su análisis, Fleisher et al. omiten las interacciones entre el mar y la tierra que fueron la base del desarrollo de esta sociedad. Concluimos que la sociedad swahili resultó de la interacción intercomunitaria, las redes socioeconómicas y la explotación de diversos recursos regionales. [comercio, marítimo, mosaicos, urbanismo, Swahili]
Book
On the Swahili coast of East Africa, monumental stone houses, tombs, and mosques mark the border zone between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean. Prita Meier explores this coastal environment and shows how an African mercantile society created a place of cosmopolitan longing. Meier understands architecture as more than a way to remake local space. Rather, the architecture of this liminal zone was an expression of the desire of coastal inhabitants to belong to places beyond their homeports. Here architecture embodies modern ideas and social identities engendered by the encounter of Africans with others in the Indian Ocean world.
Chapter
In a paper titled ‘When Did the Swahili Became Maritime’ published in the American Anthropologist, authors are skeptical about accepting the idea that Swahili societies of the East African coast were fully maritime from their earlier settlement times (about 20,000–30,000 years ago). Instead, they argue that “despite their proximity to the sea and the use of it, they practically remained not maritime societies until after circa C.E. 1000 when the level of maritimity increased greatly and became fully realized.” Although tracing when a certain society becomes ‘maritime’ is problematic, the authors did not recognize the full maritime-ness of the Swahili societies that existed several centuries before 1000 C.E., hence this reply. This paper uses historical and archaeological data with the view that the maritime-ness of the Swahili communities of the East African coast is older than thought by authors. I hereby argue that from their earlier settlement, Swahili communities were not merely part of their maritime environment but they were fully maritime and interacted with the Indian Ocean. Movements of people between and among the islands of the Indian Ocean along the coast of East Africa, individuals navigating abroad to learn some aspects of a foreign culture which they later brought back home, and the day-to-day uses of resources from the ocean verify that the maritime-ness of the societies is before 1000 C.E.
Conference Paper
This paper presents the result of an archaeological study on the first prehistoric rock paintings site discovered in Madagascar and the wider Southwestern Indian Ocean basin. It provides archaeological evidence that contributes to the understanding of the prehistory of Madagascar as well as the distribution of African rock art. Until recently, Madagascar was not known to have prehistoric rock art. Through field survey conducted in 2010, rock paintings of red, claret, reddish orange, black, and white in monochrome, bichrome and polychrome styles were encountered in the Ampasimaiky rockshelter, in the Upper Onilahy, Southwestern Madagascar. Paintings were recorded, drawn, counted, and photographed for comparative analysis. Shape typology demonstrated naturalistic depictions of cattle, mainly of zebus, anthropomorphic stick figures, and Schematic-Geometric-Amorphous signs. The latter are dominated by quadrangular, circular and elliptical shapes, lines of dots/strokes, and alphabet-like signs. Through comparative study, a vertical set of geometric signs encountered at Ampasimaiky rockshelter has been suspected to be a Libyco-Berber inscription. This would be the first evidence for early contact between Madagascar and Northern Africa during prehistoric times. Scanty materials such as potsherds and animal bones have been uncovered from the excavation of the shelter’s shallow deposits, but as yet no direct link has been established between this assemblage and the paintings.
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